Take a look at these numbers:
“48% of small business owners say what they need most to stay afloat through the recession is “more customers” compared to tax cuts (25%), access to capital (9%) and the ability to hire more employees (7%).”
The American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor (fall 2011)
“81% of companies with strong capabilities and competencies for delivering customer experience excellence are outperforming their competition”
Peppers & Rogers Group, 2009 Customer Experience Maturity Monitor
So small businesses need customers to survive. Not very surprising, when you think about it. But how DO you get more customers?
Well, here are 5 simple steps that you can take today, that will help you out:
1. Availability – Improve Customer Experience
The first step is simple – be there for your customers. Your website is just an extension of your shop, after all, and just as you would greet someone who walked into your store, so they know they are welcome, and that you’d be happy to help them if they need it – make sure they know that you’re there and available to help them when they visit your website.
Being able to reach out and get assistance when they want, and having someone to talk to when they are browsing through an online store, is a major plus for customer experience.
“Even in a negative economy, customer experience is a high priority for consumers, with 60% often or always paying more for a better experience”
Harris Interactive, Customer Experience Impact Report
2. Be Polite & Knowledgable – Make Customers Happy
The second step is just as simple. First of all, be polite. Apart from common sense, and the fact that happy customers tell their friends about their good experience*, you never know how things can impact your entire company. An epic example is this one, where an Ocean Marketing representative almost sunk the company through an inept management of a simple customer request.
Second, know what you are talking about. If your e-shop sells comics, and you don’t know if the Batman franchise is owned by DC or Marvel, or when’s the release of the next Iron Man issue, then potential customers might be wary of buying from you. Know your audience, and know your stuff.
*”Happy customers who get their issue resolved tell about 4 to 6 people about their experience.”
White House Office of Consumer Affairs, Washington, DC
3. Offer Solutions – Gain Business
When a customer comes to you with a specific problem, it’s the easiest thing in the world to apologise, and say that unfortunately you can’t help. Take my sister, for example. Her right foot is an 8, and her left foot is an 8 and a half. Needless to say, it’s always interesting watching her shop for shoes. The only time she tried shopping online, the only answer she got was the one I wrote above.
As I said before, it’s your shop, and your customer. If someone would come into your physical shop with this problem, wouldn’t you find some sort of solution for them? So why would things be different online?
“91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with your organization again”
Lee Resource Inc
4. Get Feedback – Improve Your Services
If you want to improve your services and online customer experience, customer feedback is an excellent way to do it. People who browse your website looking to buy a new painting for their living room are just the people who can help you understand how to improve the site layout, or maybe add missing features (like filtering by size).
A customer who starts a conversation with you is an excellent opportunity for you – not only to make a sale, but also to understand how you can make life for the next customer who comes along even better.
“70% of customer experience management best in class adopters use customer feedback to make strategic decision. 50% of industry-average organizations and 29% of laggards do.”
Aberdeen Group, Customer Experience Management: Engaging Loyal Customers to Evangelize Your Brand
5. Follow Up – Keep Your Customers
If you’ve followed the previous four steps, then you’ve got one satisfied customer. See? You closed a sale, got some feedback about your site and made a customer happy. Chances are, they’ll want to shop at your website again.
So help them out. If you have any special sale going, let them know about it. If you’re selling the new model of the vacuum cleaner they bought, maybe they want to see it in action?
Just keep in mind that there’s a fine line between ‘sending you important information that you’d like to know’ and ‘spamming your inbox’.
“Attracting a new customer costs 5 times as much as keeping an existing one”
Lee Resource Inc.
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